Monday, February 1, 2016

Strength Before Speed - Three Run Workouts

by Gordo Byrn

If your workouts are more impressive than your race splits then this series is for you.

Hills Then Flat - building late-race performance
Aim for 75-90 minutes in rolling hills and follow with 30-45 minutes as flat as possible. I use three variations:

  1. Just Do It - Stay relaxed throughout with a Mod-Hard HR cap on the climbs; the downhills relaxed and smooth; and the flat done no more intensely than Steady HR.

  2. Flat Benchmarking - Same instructions for the hills but modify the flat segment so you benchmark 2x20 minutes at the top of your Steady or Mod-Hard HR Zone.

  3. Intensive - Used for Olympic and 70.3 specific preparation; cap the total workout duration at two hours; climbs build gradually to just under race effort; downhills are fast and smooth; end the run with 3x12 minutes (Oly) or 2x20 minutes (70.3) at race pace.

Even when running downhill fast, the focus should remain on smooth, quick form. The goal is to develop downhill running training coordination as well as the capacity to tolerate increased eccentric loading.

Jump 800s - building race pace when fatigued
A set of 4-8 repeats of 800 meters (half mile) distance, recoveries are half the distance on the same amount of time.

Start each 800 meter repeat with 5-10 standing broad jumps. Use the full range of motion with your jumps, start deep and absorb your landing as much as possible. OK to swing your arms for additional distance.

Send offs can be set between actual 70.3 and Olympic distance run pace. Be conservative when you start -- adding a plyometric component materially changes the nature of your fast running.

In the base period, experienced athletes can use this set to make a second weekly “long” run by placing it after a skills or aerobic-benchmarking session. Do strides before the main set and tack on an easy 15-20 minutes after the set. Adding everything up, you will have an effective way to build specific stamina and maintain quickness, without sacrificing volume.

Sustained Downhill - building durability while training a specific pace at lower HR
End your run with a long downhill. Here in Boulder, I’ve done up to 10-mile descents. Ideally, the downhill segment should be between 5 km and 5 miles long.

If you’re new to sustained downhill running then “just do it” with a 1-minute powerwalk segment every 10 minutes.

As you repeat this session, you will find that you can tolerate increasing the pace. In your races, having confidence in your durability will enable you to push the downhills, without spiking HR. It’s not free speed but it’s close.

If these workouts seem too complicated then keep it simple!

The best thing most of us can do for our run splits is run more often.

Also in this series, see the swim and bike workouts that I shared earlier.

Gordo is the founder of Endurance Corner. You can find his personal blog at

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